Rick Steves’ Europe: Ireland’s Dingle Peninsula - The next parish over is Boston
I continue up the rugged one-lane road to the crest of the hill, then coast back into Dingle town — hungry, thirsty, and ready for a pub crawl.
Of the peninsula’s 10,000 residents, 1,500 live in Dingle town. Its few streets, lined with ramshackle but gaily painted shops and pubs, run up from a rain-stung harbor. During the day, teenagers — already working on ruddy beer-glow cheeks — roll kegs up the streets and into the pubs in preparation for another tin-whistle music night.
In Dingle, there’s live music most nights in half a dozen pubs. There’s never a cover charge. Just buy a beer and make yourself at home. The Small Bridge Bar and O’Flaherty’s are the most famous for their atmosphere and devotion to traditional Irish music. But tonight — and most nights — I make a point to wander the town and follow my ears. Traditional music is alive and popular in Ireland. A “session” is when musical friends (and strangers who become friends) gather and jam. There’s generally a fiddle, flute or tin whistle, guitar, bodhrán (goat-skin drum), and maybe an accordion.
I follow the music into a pub and order a pint. The music churns intensely, the group joyfully raising each other up one at a time with solos. Sipping from their mugs, they skillfully maintain a faint but steady buzz. The drummer dodges the fiddler’s playful bow. The floor on the musicians’ platform is stomped paint-free and barmaids scurry through the commotion, gathering towers of empty, cream-crusted glasses. With knees up and heads down, the music goes round and round. Making myself right at home, I “play the boot” (tap my foot) under the table in time with the music. When the chemistry is right, live music in a pub is one of the great Irish experiences.
The Irish like to say that in a pub, you’re a guest on your first night; after that, you’re a regular. That’s certainly true in Dingle ... the next parish over from Boston.
(Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) writes European guidebooks, hosts travel shows on public TV and radio, and organizes European tours. This article was adapted from his new book, For the Love of Europe. You can email Rick at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow his blog on Facebook.)
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